It is an open secret that India is royalty in the outsourcing kingdom. It is spreading its rule to newer areas each day — the latest to be annexed to its kingdom being advertising functions.
According to industry players, most of the services in communications are being outsourced to India, albeit in varying proportions. The list includes creative, planning, digital creation and execution, data analytics, production and animation functions. Industry estimates peg the total advertising business outsourced to India at almost Rs 1,000 crore. Of this, digital, search engine marketing and production hold the lion’s share, almost 70-80 per cent.
“This space (outsourcing of digital and search marketing functions) is growing at a phenomenal rate, almost 80-90 per cent. It capitalises on our key strengths like expertise in information technology as well as a large English speaking population,” says Ashish Bhasin, chairman, India, and CEO, South East Asia, Aegis Media. Other advantages include cost benefit (it may be 30-40 per cent cheaper in India) as well as the ability to scale up operations, in terms of manpower, says Bhasin.
Creative function outsourcing, that is point to point campaign development, on the other hand, is still quite rare, though not absolutely absent. “Creative outsourcing, like original ideas, original print campaigns, or television campaigns, or even digital campaigns is not very common and the amount will be a fraction. What we have seen happening of late is the outsourcing of the execution of campaigns instead. So the campaign idea is adapted to various markets out of India,” says M G Parmeswaran, ED and CEO, Draftfcb + Ulka.
The view is endorsed by Arvind Sharma, chairman, Indian subcontinent, Leo Burnett. “Instances of complete campaign development for global markets being managed out of India are rather sporadic. A more common occurrence would be that a campaign developed for the Indian market finds resonance with the client and is picked up for the global market,” says Sharma. An example: a recent Minute Maid campaign developed by the agency, currently doing the rounds of US televisions.
Another situation when campaigns developed by the Indian teams may get used globally is when the parent company sends out a common creative brief to its various partners across geographies and looks at all presentations to pick one for a global campaign. For the company this is the means to pit its best talent against each other and for the agencies and its people, a chance to display their work on a global platform.
Both these instances, as mentioned by Sharma, as well as the global pitches cannot be termed as outsourcing. The reason creative outsourcing hasn’t gained traction is fairly obvious, say advertising professionals. “The idea is to be able to standardise communications and at the same time give them a local flavour. This means you have to build an international team, that can work with and understand the nuances of local markets. This is a hard thing to get customers to accept—it takes a lot of discipline not normally associated with advertising agencies,” says Poran Malani, president, Ogilvy India Worldwide, advertising agency O&M’s arm dedicated to developing communication for international markets from its Bengaluru centre.
The industry is optimistic that going forward many more clients will acknowledge the Indian expertise in the space and possibly even make India their creative headquarters the way Chinese personal computer and laptop maker, Lenovo, has done. Says Ajay Kaul, executive director-global brand communications, Lenovo W W Marketing Services, “Currently, we are developing close to 5,000 assets (could include website creation, emails, print or even television campaigns) each year from our Bangalore hub.”